Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Making a Game of Good Finances

There is a new app available that makes a game out of eating well and losing weight. This got me thinking about whether the same could be done for personal finances.

Imagine a game that has access to all your account balances and can assess the state of your finances and whether the latest changes have been a step forward or a step back. Cleverly tying this into game play might provide the kind of incentive many people need to manage their money well.

There are obvious security concerns with giving some app access to your accounts, but I think it is possible in principle to do this safely (possibly with the cooperation of banks). The app would only need account balances; it wouldn’t need the ability to make transactions.

It would probably take several iterations of uninspired versions of such a game to finally get to something that would actually affect people’s behaviour, but I can see the possibility of this working extremely well.


  1. Something that gives you updates that you are too fat and spending too much? Isn't that called your wife?

  2. @Big Cajun Man: That would be an example of a poorly-constructed game.

  3. Big Cajun Man, hahaha!

    Michael, I know what you mean, and I think that such a game could work. But life is pretty slow moving, and mistakes are costly. I would personally prefer a simulation which would move faster and allow me to make mistakes (or try a new strategy) without actually risking bankruptcy. But I'm a personal finance geek, and I don't know how much fun such a game would be for most people.

    Besides that, I wrote a game for the Palm Pilot (called Spam Trader) which was loosely based on Drug Wars. The idea was to pay off debt by trading commodities (including Spam). When I described it to an entrepreneur friend who was older that me, he responded: That sounds too much like real life. I've got enough debt troubles, without a "game" trying to get out of debt. I see his point.

  4. @Robert: I think the path for such a game would begin with some early adopters who are concerned with their finances. Then, if the game is well-designed, others would join in either because they want to play the game with their friends or they want to control their finances, too. Everything depends critically on the game being well-designed -- a big challenge.